[Poison'd] Was this an Ashcan?

edited November 2009 in Story Games
I bought Poison'd a while ago as pdf, and always thought of it as an ashcan. However, I'm beginning to think I'm mistaken. Does anyone know if this was released as an Ashcan initially, and if so, what changes are there between this and the current version?

Also, for those that've played it a lot, how do you find the gathering of Xs works in play? I've only played in part of one game and it came off very stilted, with players coming up with conflicts solely to earn some Xs so the kick some arse later on. Is this others' experience, or is it a bit like 3:16: the rules read very mechanistic, like a simple boardgame, but when you play the roleplaying comes up sort of spontaneous out of the situations the characters find themselves in?


  • The comparison with 3:16 is actually pretty much on target, in my experience. The same people seem to have trouble playing both, too. Something to do with insufficient selling of ingame concerns vis-a-vis mechanical rewards, I imagine.

    I seem to remember that there was an ashcan, as well. No idea how it differed from the full game, but I understand that the changes were minor.
  • edited November 2009
    It was released as an ashcan originally, but is now described a First Edition. Between the two, some GM notes were added, and a rule about the GM rolling to escalate (which I tend not to use). Perhaps other tweaks, but it didn't change much.

    It reads mechanistically, like a boardgame, but it's really, really important that you don't play it like that. If you do, it's dull as hell. Let the pirates' ambitions drive the game, instead. Ask them, often, what they want to do. Also, get them off the boat. The best bits take place on shore.

    I haven't found the gathering of Xs stilted. In my games, pirates don't need much prompting to be brutal.

    Poison'd is one of my favourite games. It is a sure-fire hit every time I run it. However, other people have real difficulty with it, so there's something going on, some trick to running it that the rules don't explain. I hope Vincent does a second edition one day.

    Oh! A couple more things. Unlike Eero, I think it's a very different game from 3:16. 3:16 is boardgamey and mechanical, and works because of it, whereas Poison'd only appears to be that way.

    Also, judging from your spelling of "arse", you're probably English, so if you ever see me at a convention, I will happily run Poison'd for you.

  • I've only read the game and have yet to play it, but it certainly seemed like a finished product to me. Very thorough in its implementation.

    It strikes me that the players should be roleplaying and their actions make the rules engage, not the rules engaging the players to roleplay. If that makes any sense. It's a game for people who want to roleplay pirates, not for people who want to play this ruleset. For my personal preferences, that's the way it should be.

    I position this against 4th edition, which is a game for people who want to play those rules, not for people who want to play high fantasy characters exploring wondrous ruins.
  • Anybody who has only the ashcan, email me. I'll set you up with the finished PDFs.
  • We just started a new game using the first edition last week, and the changes from the Ashcan were not huge, though I did notice them. So far I like it.
  • Thanks for the comments - I wondered if I was missing anything between the ashcan and the final version, but it sounds like they're 90% similar.

    I have a feeling the game I played in may have suffered from being the first time anyone (including the GM) had tried it, so there was some floundering after the initial decisions on who would be Captain.I'm not entirely certain where the boardgame impression came from, but I link it to the Cruel Fortune rules I think, and their card format.

    After being impressed by 'Until we sink', the card thing got me thinking about Poison'd again, so I think I should really give it another go sometime soon.

    So any other tricks to running the game successfully? What does prep for this game look like after the first session and resolution of the Captaincy and dealing with the navy ship? Relationship maps and a situation, or is it more freeform, sparking off a few Cruel Fortune events and going from there?
  • The language you use sounds strangely cooperative. The "resolution of the Captaincy" and the "initial decisions on who would be Captain" sound friendly and cooperative. I would imagine it would be more like "After Thick Robin brained the first mate with a belaying pin and took over the captaincy, we decided to take it right to the King's sloop, be damned the condition of the ship."

    Conditions in the game, as brought on by Cruel Fortunes, should be demanding enough that they drive the players to action because the characters have deal with the problems at hand. Again, I haven't played it yet but that seems like enough to move the game forward. To answer your question more directly, I think that within the structures of the Cruel Fortunes and various ship, crew and character attributes that yes there is a lot of room for "freeform" (or as it used to be called, "roleplaying" :)). The GM would be filling in details, providing colour with NPCs and the navy ships and so on.
  • edited November 2009
    There's no prep. It all comes from the character's actions. As GM, do the following:

    1. Encourage the players to follow their ambitions.
    2. Remind them where they are and ask what they do next. "Right, so you've got no Captain and the assassin is laughing at you. What do you do?"
    3. Incite player-vs-player conflict. "So he's stealing your stuff. Are you just going to take that?".

    Player-vs-player stuff drives the game. If you don't have that, you're pretty much sunk.

    Tell people that, if they die, they can make another pirate in no time. I once had a pirate die in the first five minutes, after fighting for the Captaincy, and I can't think why that doesn't always happen.

    Don't focus on the Cruel Fortunes! They're sometimes interesting (especially the Kings Agents and the Constabulary), but they're mostly ship-based. Get off the ship. Really. The game looks like it's about hunting prizes at sea, but it really, really mustn't be. Focus on the Ambitions instead.

    The rules are kind of weird. They do good things: as you'll see, when you're at the third level of escalation, and one roll of the dice tells you whether you die or the other guy does. But try sneaking up behind a guard and knocking him out and, suddenly, the rules become rickety. As GM, make instant rules calls, and gloss over bits like this. But they're great. The rules are great.

    You've got a relationship map already: that's what the bargains are for.

    I'm hoping that, if I mention it often enough, Vincent will write a Second Edition, with a text that fully explains how to run the game. This usually works: if you tell Vincent "You should write a game about badgers", the thought niggles away at him until he writes a game about badgers. (He will read this, and laugh, and then start wondering how to write a game about badgers. Expect a game about badgers around December 2010).

  • edited November 2009
    Walkerp: yes, there was a lot of arguing and posturing and being nasty; no, it did not ultimately result in an engaging game in the one instance where I played. Were we 'playng it wrong'? Possibly, but it certainly took on the shape of the game I had heard about, and I feel secure that we did not entirely miss the point of the game or anything like that.

    What we found is there's a strong implied set of behaviour, initial conflicts and stuff to do, but once we scratched beneath that the impetus behind the game started to get a bit aimless and fell flat, I think due to the lack of injected-events/dilemmas/crises by the GM coupled with aimlessness from the players - in the absence of other things to do, players started chasing Xs through arbitrary conflicts, which felt back-to-front, and the conflicts consequently feeling contrived. I think Graham's on to something with advice to get the characters off of the ship, and to focus on the pirates' ambitions.

    What I'm ideally looking for is advice from people who've played a few sessions, maybe even a mini-campaign, and what that looked like, especially the level of prep involved (is it like In a Wicked Age, essentially prep-less? Or Trollbabe, with NPCs, a location, something at stake? Or more than that?), and what for them, made the game 'sing'.

    By the way, for clarification, when I said 'freeform' I meant low-to-no prep, nothing to do with the level of roleplaying involved.

    Edit: cross-posted with Graham. Thanks, that's all sounding like good advice. I'd forgotten about the connections between the player-characters.
  • Ah, thanks for the more detailed clarification, Adrian. I think you have gone beyond my knowledge and are correct to be looking for people who have actually played the game a bit.

    Were the players not concerned about repairing their ship or had they dealt with that already? And wasn't the navy cruiser a problem or again, the aimlessness came after all that was resolved?
  • I can't recall what we did about repairs - although the lack of direction did come after the Navy was escaped from. I think we went on to try and hunt down a merchant ship, which was where things started to come unstuck.

    Thanks Graham, that's very helpful, I can already see a few areas where we went a bit wrong - I wonder if perhaps having everyone read the rules beforehand may have been a mistake, as it could have taken some of the novelty out of the initial fate of the cook, deal with the navy problems. Plus we were mechancially very conscious of the power of Xs, leading to perhaps too much focus on trying to get them before anyone else.

    Vincent has very kindly sent me a first ed version, so it definitely looks like time to organise a replay!
  • Just to check. You know the Navy isn't there at the start, right? They're coming for you, but they're not there yet. The Urgency card deals with that.

    We usually find two ship battles in a row are too much. If the pirates fight their first battle and lose, leaving them with no treasure, don't let them go off to do another one. Get them off the ship, even if they've got no treasure.

    Oh, another thing, which falls into the category of "It's not really a mechanical game". You needn't always deal with things in the way the mechanics suggest: for example, you can take out a fortress by sneaking into it, rather than doing a ship battle; you can get a night ashore by threatening someone or stealing someone's cash at knifepoint. All that is fine. The mechanics are not constraints: they don't say "This is the only way you can defeat a fortress / spend a night ashore".

  • No, if I recall correctly the navy ship was on us pretty much after Tom was killed - the pressure for a new Captain came from the navy looming down on us. Maybe the GM got a lucky roll with the Urgency, but I don't recall that happening.

    Thanks for the advice on dealing with things like Fortress outside of combat - I had the definite impression that shore leave is not allowed without Leisure stuck in my head, so it's a good thing to remind me of alternatives.

    Cheers for all the advice and help people have given!
  • As far as I can tell, the Resolute *always* shows up with the first roll. It's just part of the system, somehow.

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